Excerpt: The Visitor


Happy Monday!

I’ve been going through some old drafts of things I started and then put aside, trying to decide what writing project to work on next and what excerpt I could post on the blog. Some were too R-rated (lol), another I felt was potentially too dark, but this one seemed just right. 🙂 It’s really just backstory, so I don’t know if it will ever make its way into a book, but I wrote it when I was thinking about Carly’s bad ass grandma, and about who her biological father is (the one who left their mother when they were young). Sounds scumbag-ish, but like always in the Reborn world, nothing is as it first appears…..

This is some Carly family backstory, related to events that happened in Reclaim (Reborn Book #3). (I recommend *not* reading it if you haven’t read Reclaim and are planning to, because it will spoil parts of it.) And please keep in mind this was mostly for my notes so it’s very rough, but I thought readers of the series would enjoy it. Happy reading!

*****

Image result for someone knocking on a doorUpstate New York, eleven years ago

Darlene Vignovich was just beginning to doze off when there was a loud, urgent knocking at the front door.

She gave a shudder, paper-thin eyelids flying open, and sat straight up in her chair. Placing a gnarled, wrinkled hand on either chair arm, she hoisted herself to standing, then, grabbing her cane from where it was propped up against the end table, propelled herself toward the door. Three more loud, demanding knocks sounded on the other side. She thought about alerting her husband, who was out back tending to his rose bushes (as always), deciding against it a moment later. From the sudden, inexplicable drop in temperature in the room, and the way the breath left her lips in small, white puffs, she already knew who stood on the other side of that door.

She knew she could handle him.

“You,” she said after unlatching and pulling the door open. She kept the screen door locked, meeting the pair of bright, blue eyes on the other side of it with a steely resolve. They belonged to a very tall man with a strong-looking but slim body, a head of salt-and-pepper hair and beard to match, and those keen blue eyes peering out of a tan face lined with age. He looked to be about fifty, but each time Darlene had seen him over her long life he had looked the same. The first time their paths had crossed she had been eighteen and a freshman in college, and she had thought him an old man, albeit a distinguished one. Now that she was an old woman, he looked younger and more appealing than ever.

“Where do you get off, dropping by here unexpectedly,” Darlene snapped, jabbing her cane in his direction. “You should have called first.”

“Darlene.” He said her name patiently, imploringly, and spread his arms in an apologetic manner, palms out to face her. “You’re the one that invited me here.”

“I know that,” she spat, spittle flying through the air, collecting on the glass pane of the door in tiny round droplets. “I’m not senile, just old.” Although sometimes she wondered about that, herself. Sometimes she got confused. Usually, it was small things. Calling one of her granddaughters by her daughter’s name. Looking in the fridge for the sugar, and in the cupboard for the milk. But sometimes it was bigger things. The two worlds, two realities she had forced apart her entire life had, at some point, floated back together and now bled into each other, like squirts of blue and green dye mixing in a bowl of water.

“Darlene. Open the door,” the visitor beseeched her calmly.

After a moment’s stubborn pause, Darlene obliged, unlocking and opening the screen door.

One shiny black dress shoe, then the other, crossed the threshold, clapping over the hardwood floor. His dark suit was snug and well-tailored, the outline of muscle much too prominent for someone his age visible underneath the expensive material. Underneath, he wore a crisp white shirt and a purple tie.

“You should have called,” Darlene scolded him again, shuffling over to perch on the edge of a couch cushion. He sat down in the arm chair she had vacated moments ago, reclining it back slightly, making himself at home. “Hannah and the girls will be here soon. If they see you…”

“They won’t,” he assured her, drumming long, elegant fingers on his thigh. “They’ll never know I was here, will go on believing I left their mother, abandoned them.”

“You did,” she reminded him.

“Only because you demanded it of me.”

“You would have left eventually, anyway. That’s what your kind do. Spread your seed on this world and then bolt.”

“My kind?” The corner of his mouth ticked upward. Despite herself, Darlene always thought the man had a nice mouth. There was a sensuous curve to his lips, and they were a nice, smooth pale pink, like the peonies that grew in her garden. “It’s your kind too, Darlene. Our blood runs through your veins.”

Even though she already knew this—he had told her and her sorority sisters this sixty years ago—Darlene still shivered, the hairs on her forearms pricking. “Yes. Demon blood does run through them. But so does human blood. And that is where I derive my strength from.”

“Demon blood.” The visitor rolled those too-blue eyes. “We’re not demons. We are not evil. We are simply more…advanced. If anything, we’re angels. Gods.”

Darlene’s head of tight, white curls sliced to the right, then the left. “God has nothing to do with the likes of you. Living so long, being so beautiful, so…alluring…that can’t be God’s work. It is Satan’s. It is an abomination.”

“Is that what you would call your granddaughters?” He leaned forward in the chair, eyes deepening to an icier shade of blue. The temperature in the room took a nosedive, and Darlene felt little tendrils of frost collecting in her nose, on her eyelashes. “Abominations? Your ‘tainted’ blood flows through their veins. So does mine.”

“Carly and Diane will never know of this world,” she insisted, embracing herself. She didn’t want her daughter’s ex-husband to catch her shivering, but she couldn’t help it. His easily sparked temper had thrown them into a freezer. “I have made sure of that.”

“You won’t be around to protect them forever.” His reminder chilled her even further. “They’ll be out in the world, on their own. Just like you, they will gravitate toward the sisterhood. They will discover their heritage. Their destiny.”

“No.” She shook her head again. “I won’t let that happen.”

All at once, the temperature in the room rose again, the frost clinging to her eyelids and nostrils melting. The visitor sat back in the chair again, raking a hand through his salt-and-pepper hair. “You don’t have to leave them,” he continued in a calmer, kinder tone. “You know that. I can give you more ambrosia. It will awaken the rest of your…demon”—he sneered the word—“blood, give you practically eternal life. But you won’t have to leave Hannah, or your granddaughters.”

Darlene extended a hand to the top of her cane, feeling the grooves in the wood with her fingers. “I don’t want to leave them. But, one day, I’ll have to. That is the natural order of things. The circle of life. I won’t destroy my soul, even for eternal life.”

He sighed. “That’s my Darlene, always so damn moral.”

Darlene nodded once, stiffly. “That’s right. So, did you bring it? Do you have what I requested?” He’d better not have come empty handed.

Nodding and reaching into his suit jacket, her former son-in-law pulled out a black velvet, drawstring bag, seeming to weigh it in his hand before handing it to her. Darlene accepted it, resting the bag on her lap and opening it up, peering inside.

“This is it?” she asked, still unable to believe it. To trust him. “This will seal the rift that’s on the outskirts of my property?”

“That, and this.” He reached back into his jacket, this time emerging with a piece of yellowed parchment. “This is the ritual that will close the tear. Permanently.”

“Good.” Accepting the parchment from him, Darlene gingerly folded it in half and tucked it inside her robe. She pulled on the drawstrings, closing the black velvet pouch. “I’m not sure what’s out there, but there’s something on the other side of that rift. I can hear them sometimes, crying. Screaming.” More demons, she assumed, but she wasn’t about to bring that up in front of him again. There was no point. The rift would be repaired soon, and everything would be back to normal. “What do you think could cause such a thing?” she asked, almost as an afterthought. “I thought the walls the guardians erected long ago were supposed to be full-proof.”

“They are quite sturdy,” he agreed, “but can occasionally weaken and fail from natural wear and tear. But it’s nothing to worry about. That should do the trick.” He nodded toward the bag still sitting in her lap. Darlene wasn’t sure she believed that the anomaly was “nothing to worry about,” but she didn’t pursue that either. Hannah and the girls would be there soon. It was time for him to go.

He seemed to understand this, bringing the recliner forward again and getting to his feet, adjusting his tie as he strode toward the door. “Don’t bother getting up, Darlene.” He waved a hand in her direction just as she was making to push up onto her feet with her cane. “I can see myself out.”

But before he left, he turned again, one hand on the door, the other fisted at his side. “My daughters do not have evil inside of them. They have my people’s magic. Power. You don’t want me to be a part of their lives? Fine. I’ll stay away. But do not shelter them. Don’t deny them their heritage. Like you, like Hannah—though she doesn’t know it—they are guardians. And they are so much more. If you don’t tell them, they will find out some other way. I guarantee it. The Fates will guide them to their destiny. But it’s better that you prepare them. Think about it.”

With that, he pushed through the screen door, pulling it closed behind him much too hard, causing the glass pane to shudder and rattle. Heaving a sigh, Darlene set the black velvet pouch containing the object capable of mending the walls-between-worlds on the couch before getting up to close and lock the heavy oak door. Feeling suddenly breathless, she turned, leaning her back against the cool wood of the door, closing her eyes. He was right about one thing. Maybe she should tell Carly and Diane. Everything.

A moment later, she shook her head, going back over to the couch to retrieve the bag. She would need time to learn how to use the object inside properly and to practice the ritual. Until then, she would hide it away from her granddaughters’ inquisitive eyes. No, she decided, shuffling up the stairs. It was best Carly and Diane only knew the world they were used to. One that was safe. Normal. No demons, no parallel worlds, no magic. They would never know about the guardians, nor who their father really was.

She would make sure of it.

 

I Made a Thing


I’ve been working on a teaser trailer for Relapse, Book 2 in my Reborn series. Let me know what you think!

The estimated release time of Relapse is Fall 2014. I don’t feel comfortable enough yet to narrow it down more than that, but Relapse will come. Someday.

The song in the video is “Hanging On” by Ellie Goulding.

 

Reborn teaser: The Encounter


Book cover blackAs promised, here’s a teaser from Chapter One of my romantic (erotic?) urban fantasy novel Reborn. (Kids, don’t try this at home. And by “this,” I mean going off into the woods at night because you see something kinda strange.)

***

“Hey, look at that!” He pointed into the woods.

Anna joined him and peered into the thick, dark trees. “I don’t see anything, Jim.”

“No, look! Something’s glowing!” He turned and gave me a lopsided grin. “Let’s go see what it is, kids!” He swung his arm in a sideways punch as if it were the 1950s and something was really swell.

“Ugh, come on, Jim,” Anna groaned. “Just stay here. Dad’s picking us up soon, anyway.”

I came up on Jimmy’s other side, the distant flicker of a white flame catching my eye. “I see it.” I didn’t know what it was, but there was something mesmerizing about it. I took an involuntarily step forward and looked over at Jimmy.

“Let’s go.” I smiled. Jimmy grinned back, his eyes alight with mischief. Anna sighed, and I sensed a frustrated inner eye roll.

“Fine.” She looked back at our drunken peers. “No one’s even going to notice we’re gone. If something happens to us –”

“If we realize it’s too far, we’ll turn around,” Jimmy assured her. Sometimes it was hard for me to believe that cautious Anna and impulsive Jimmy were even related, let alone twins.

We crept into the woods, our feet crunching over fallen twigs and leaves. Even though it was late and dark, I wasn’t afraid –maybe because I was with Anna and Jimmy, or maybe that one beer I had instilled me with false confidence. The white glow really wasn’t as far away as it seemed from the yard, and it grew steadily larger and more luminous. A cool autumn breeze caressed my face, bringing a blend of sweet scents to my nose, like someone was burning a honey vanilla candle.

“It’s a fire,” Jimmy whispered. We stopped a few yards away from it. But it wasn’t like any fire I’d ever seen –it was yellow-white and lapped at the ground without burning it. It stayed inside an almost perfect circle a few feet wide, only the curling tendrils of sweet-smelling smoke escaping it.

“You came.”

All of us went completely still at the sound of the weak, hoarse voice. I looked wildly around but didn’t see anything.

“You saw my signal, and you came to help me.”

Then, I saw him, sprawled against a maple tree beyond the strange fire.

I looked away quickly, my face flushing in embarrassment. I got enough of a glimpse to realize he was mostly naked, muscles rippling down his marble-white chest and abdomen before disappearing underneath a black loin-cloth.

“Siobhan.”

My head snapped up again when he whispered my name. This time I couldn’t look away, my eyes drinking him in. Even in as vulnerable a position as he was, his presence permeated the forest, seeping into every crevice of every tree trunk, saturating every pore in the dirt floor. And he was the most beautiful man I had ever seen. Tousled dark hair brushed his shoulders framing high cheekbones and a sensuous mouth. A pair of magnificent, black feathered wings protruded from his back, crushed against the unforgiving ground. He reminded me of a fallen angel, but if angels existed, I didn’t think they had his kind of sinister, carnal magnetism. But what shocked me the most wasn’t his perfect body, his handsome face or even the wings.

He was the man from my dreams.

“Siobhan.” This time it was Anna saying my name as she fearfully watched me tiptoe around the fire to go to him.

His thick eyelashes fluttered open, and underneath his eyes were a deep blue whirlpool sucking me in even further. His lips moved, but I couldn’t hear him, so I leaned down closer.

“Psyche. You came back to me.”

What was Psyche? And what did he mean, “You came back to me?” With the exception of my dreams, I’d never met him before in my life.

I didn’t pull away or snap at him. In his final moments of life, he was feverish and confused. “I don’t know you,” I reminded him gently, “but I will help you if I can.”

His eyes pleaded with me as he raised his hand into the air, palm facing me. In a trance-like state I extended my own and brushed my palm and fingers against his, which were warm and slick with sweat. I almost jerked away, but I took a deep breath and maintained the contact, all the while staring into the dark pools of his eyes.

“Siobhan, you’re it.” At least I thought that was what he said –his voice was so small and weak.

“Let’s go back to the house.” Anna’s insistent voice was shrill with anxiety. She pulled on my arm while Jimmy pried this strange man’s hand away from mine. Jimmy didn’t let go of my hand immediately, instead clasping it firmly in his.

“Anna’s right,” he said, although I barely heard him as a flood of nausea suddenly seized me, waves of it coursing through my stomach and back.

Wait – my back?

I slipped my fingers out of Jimmy’s and brought both hands to my stomach.

“What’s wrong?” Anna asked and took a step toward me, but I staggered away from her. I didn’t know what was happening to me. All I knew was the urgency crashing down on me. I had to get away from them before it happened.

“Wait! Siobhan!”

Their panicked voices followed me as I took off deeper into the woods. Frenzied footsteps picked up behind me, but a burst of adrenaline pushed me forward so I outran them even in my delirious state. I made it to the muddy bank of a stream before tossing the orange sports drink I’d drained at the game all over the matted grass.

I felt better after throwing up, my stomach settling, but the unfamiliar rolling underneath my varsity jacket persisted. Bone and muscle liquefied as two jagged edges knifed through my skin. I tore my jacket off to the sound of splitting seams as they exploded out of my back, leaving the vest of my cheerleading uniform in strips of sweaty polyester.

Panting, hands still at my stomach, I sat still for a few beats to calm myself. Once the hammer of my heart in my chest dwindled to a patter and my breathing steadied, I crawled to the bank and looked through bleary eyes at my reflection in the roiling dark silver surface on the creek.  My violet eyes glanced at my face, white with shock, and the blonde hair sticking to my cheeks and neck before coming to rest on the butterfly-like wings looming behind me, shimmering midnight blue and indigo in the dark.